December 3, 2022

Mk VIII: This type followed the interim Mk IX. It was virtually an un pressurized Mk VII in LF (Low Flying, Clipped), F (standard) and HF (High Flying, extended span) versions. Production totaled 1,658. RAF serials of the Indian Mk VIII s (F VIII, VIIIe, VIIIc and LF VIIIc) were in the JF, JG, LV, MD (both PR XI and the LF VIIIc shared this series) MT, MV , NH (shared by VIIIc, FR XIVe and F XVIIIe ) and PA series.

A rare shot of nose art and spinner spiral on a 2 Squadron IAF ‘A’ flt, LF.VIIIc at Miranshah in June 1946.

This LF VIIIc was TOC/RAF 5.2.44 arriving Karachi on 11.5.44 to ACSEA (No 228 Communications Flt) RIAF and then No 3 (Indian) Group Communications Flight in 1946. This aircraft along with a tragically large number of other Spitfires was destroyed by the departing RAF (“Struck Off Charge” in the RAF terms) by the simple expedient of dropping large concrete blocks with the help of a crane on 28.8.47.

The aircraft sports a curious scheme of silver without an anti glare panel, a two colour (red and Blue?) fin flash and a full pre war Type A roundel with the yellow outline.. Note also the ventral slipper tank.

Of the famous names attached to this mark is Plt Offr (later Air Chief Mshl and Chief of the Air staff) LM Katre who while with No 1 Squadron IAF, attempted a dead stick landing after an engine failure on MD 329 during a ferry from Nagpur to Hakimpet, and undershot the field. In the event the aircraft overturned 30 miles south of Nagpur (20043’N 7901’E) and the pilot was seriously injured.

Of the IAF’s Mk VIIIs, two have survived, namely MT 719 a LF VIIIc and NH 631 also a LF VIIIc. In February 2003, an almost intact Spitfire Mk VIII wreckage was escavated from the riverbed at Mullana near Ambala. This aircraft was identified as MV 459.

Indian Air Force Mk VIII Survivors Today

MT 719

This aircraft was taken on charge by the RAF on 21.6.44 and arrived Bombay on 5.9.44 for No 17 Squadron RAF (YB-J). It transferred to RIAF inventory on 29.12/47 was coded ‘93’ at one time. Its IAF history is unknown but it became a ground instructional airframe- T-17 with the NCC at Jaipur/Sanganer. The hulk was sold to Haydon-Baillie in 1978 with seven other Spitfires auctioned as one lot by the Govt of India. Today it is registered in the USA as N719 MT.

MT 719 as it was discovered at Jaipur in 1977. At that time, the previous Squadron letters YB-J could still be made out behind its IAF Roundel

Restored LF VIIIc survivor MT 719 as seen today in markings of No 17 Squadron RAF.

NH 631

The only flyable Spitfire in India, it began life with the RAF on 16.12.44 and arrived India on 19.2.45 for 151 OTU. It was loaned to the IAF around 5.46 and is known to have served with Nos 9 and 2 Squadrons IAF. It was finally transferred to the RIAF on 29.12.47 and moved to No 1 BRD on 22.11.49 and then to HQ Maintenance Command flight at Kanpur in 1950. After being scrapped, it was recovered by Air Cmde Harjinder Singh (the first “Hawai Sepoy” or Airmen of the IAF) and was test flown by the great Suranjan Das (later of HAL Marut fame) before being flown by Air Cmde Harjinder Singh to Ambala to receive his IAF wings brevet. The aircraft carries a plate under the nose carrying the inscription “Plumber” as this was the call sign Of Harjinder Singh (Plumber 11). This aircraft was moved to the IAF museum in 1967.

During the IAF’s Golden Jubilee on 8.10.82, the Spitfire (along with a Harvard, Tiger Moth, HT-2 and Vampire 52) was restored using Dakota, MiG 21, Kiran and Otter parts and flown as part of the IAF’s Historic Flight till 1989. During its “second birth” in the 1950s the aircraft would most probably have been painted in an all silver scheme as shown below, but was painted incorrectly in the scheme that it appeared-in in 1982.

Originally intended to be finished in the All Silver scheme shown in this profile with the Anti-Glare black paint on the engine cowling, the NH-631 ended up in the incorrect scheme shown below. SpitNH631-Profile.jpg (11991 bytes)
 

MV 459

MV 459 was a LF VIIIc (Merlin 66) TOC RAF 16.9.44 Arrived Bombay 8.12.44 for No 8 RFU ACSEA. to RIAF 1946 AFS(I). engine cut belly landed river Mullana village 10 m from Ambala on 23.5.47. declared cat FA/E P/O A D'Cruz OK. SOC 26.6.47

The aircraft was left at the crash site by the recovery team and it resurfaced during some digging in February 2003. Subsequently a team from Ambala Air Force Station visited the site and recovered the aircraft.

  MV459 in its restored state at Ambala Air Force Station

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